BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Museum of Art will celebrate 2020 by adopting a daring new policy designed to reverse the art world's historic marginalization of female artists.
Christopher Bedford, the museum's director, said Thursday that every artwork the BMA obtains for its permanent collection next year -- every painting, every sculpture, every ceramic figurine, whether through a purchase or donation -- will have been created by a woman.
In addition, each of the 22 exhibits on view will have a female-centric focus. Nineteen will showcase artworks exclusively by women and will include works by at least one transsexual woman. Two exhibitions will explore how male artists perceive women, and another will honor the visionary Adelyn Breeskin, who directed the BMA from 1942 to 1962.
"This how you raise awareness and shift the identity of an institution," Bedford said. "You don't just purchase one painting by a female artist of color and hang it on the wall next to a painting by Mark Rothko. To rectify centuries of imbalance, you have to do something radical."
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment guarantying U.S. women the right to vote. More than a dozen local arts groups have prepared some sort of programming to celebrate that milestone, according to a survey conducted by the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.
What sets the BMA's initiative apart is the depth of its institution's commitment, devoting an entire year to recognizing the contributions of female artists.
In addition, Bedford said he is aware of no other general-purpose museum in the nation that has devoted its annual acquisitions budget to obtaining works created by members of an under-represented minority group.
"We're attempting to correct our own canon," Bedford said. "We recognize the blind spots we have had in the past, and we are taking the initiative to do something about them.
"This is also a declaration of intent going forward of the kinds of exhibits we will have and the kind of acquisitions we will make. There can be no beginning and no end, just a consistency of effort in the right direction."
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